Let us now praise Bruce Kauffman

Mensch (Yiddish: מענטשmentsh, cognate with the German word Mensch meaning a “human being”) means “a person of integrity and honor”.[1]

Highly savvy in the ways of journalism, and a brilliant analyst of the ways of the world, Bruce Kauffman was the very epitome of a mensch. He always was ready to lend an ear to a friend’s tale of joy or woe and help out when needed.

Bruce was one of the first people I met when I came to Escondido in 1999 to start up the North County Times agriculture coverage and otherwise aid and abet the legendary, if controversial, John Van Doorn in his quest to form a more perfect business desk.

Van Doorn was a former New York Times editor who retired to Escondido and found his way to the NCTimes as a kind of eminence grise and unofficial conscience of the newspaper. While most of the Times staff were either too young to know better or too untalented to do better, Van Doorn carved out a mini-kingdom at the business desk with a few older, knowledgable and dedicated journalists who could weather his eccentricities and laugh at his quirks.

That’s where Bruce came in, covering business and media news with a very savvy and sympathetic style. Along with myself and Dan McSwain, we represented Van Doorn’s foils and the tip of his journalistic spear. Since Van Doorn had a — shall we say — overwhelming personality and drive, our stories tended to dominate the front page along with our very own stand-alone business section that nobody outside of Van Doorn dared touch.

Van Doorn was a bit much to take in the end. When we of the business desk scribe club finally tired of the shenanigans, we went to the hallowed place editor Kent Davey assigned Van Doorn refugees, the San Marcos office.

Along with photographer Waldo Nilo, Bruce and myself worked out of San Marcos by the bowling alley together for years. We spent a lot of time commiserating, writing stories, taking in sushi or taco lunches and otherwise enjoying ourselves a few miles, and many sensibilities, away from the home office.

Out of sight, out of mind, we continued to do our thing as best we could. It was a pleasure reading Bruce’s takes on life and being able to confer with him about matters large and small. He was an under-appreciated fount of sense and sensibility, perspective and wisdom.

With The Grapevine, Bruce came up with an interesting and fun concept, an online serialized work of fiction based on his interest in baseball — a Boston Red Sox fan – and hard-boiled detective stories. We ran his Tale of the Toppled Hurler, chapter by chapter over the course of a year. You can read it in various forms here or here.

Bruce lived for decades at Oceanside, moving a year, or so, ago to National City. He died last week of natural causes at age 72, and, obviously, will be sorely missed. Aside from The Grapevine, his last stories appeared in the San Diego Reader on Oct. 23, Free Ride Day — a few left behind, and Sept. 14, National City’s Cano accused of Hatch Act violation, so check those out if you have the time.

Bruce’s sister Joyce Kauffman, a Boston-based attorney, shared the news of Bruce’s death, which, like many such passings, came as a shock and wake-up call to those left behind. What follows is his official obit to give you some flavor of the reach and scope of his life well-lived.

Bruce A. Kauffman has died in National City, CA., at the age of 72.  Bruce spent his childhood in Norwood and Falmouth, Massachusetts, and was a graduate of Phillips Academy – Andover, Case Western Reserve University, and the University of Missouri where he earned a master’s degree in journalism.  Bruce worked as a reporter for several newspapers, including the (Quincy) Patriot Ledger, the Hartford Courant, the North County Times and, most recently, the Escondido Grapevine in California. He also worked for several years for CNN in Atlanta. The son of the late Jordan and the late Evelyn Kauffman, Bruce is survived by his sister, Patricia Kauffman of West Roxbury, and his sister Joyce Kauffman and her wife, Annie Weatherwax, of Roslindale, his brother Frank Kauffman and his wife, Judi Kauffman, of Chevy Chase, Md., and by his niece, Becca Kauffman, of Ridgewood, New York.  Bruce was a sweet and gentle man who will be missed by all those who loved him.

The last line in this journalist’s journalist obit says it all: Bruce was a sweet and gentle man who will be missed by all those who loved him.

So true, and so sad, for those of us who must continue to trudge on in this earthly coil without the benefit of Bruce’s sage observations, advice and friendship.

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